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Photo of Joseph Bordogna

Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation

30th Anniversary of the I/UCRC Program
Washington, DC
January 8, 2004

Good morning. And congratulations to each and every one of you involved in the I/UCRC Program. Some successes never wane and all of you have been responsible for the continuing stellar performance of this program.

I think we can all agree that we owe a special debt of gratitude to Alex Schwarskopf for his thirty years of commitment to, and leadership of, the I/UCRC program. He has been the super-mentor, nurturing, directing, and guiding. There is no question that, without Alex, none of this would have happened. He is the consummate enabler.

Today, since we have so many people on the agenda to speak for, and about, the program's specific milestones and successes, I thought I would draw a somewhat larger arc in my remarks.

I want to talk about NSF -- touching on its history, mission, and vision for the future, and how the I/UCRC program is an important part of all three.

The philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." In NSF's more than 50-year history, we have been astute readers of the past in order to carve more productive paths to the future.

In 1974 when NSF started the I/UCUC program, the relationship between industry and government in America could be characterized as one of mutual reticence. Other than in times of war and national crisis, these two societal sectors operated with purposeful independence of each other.

The 1970's also saw the rise of Japan as a first example determined economic competitor in our domestic market, as well as in the global marketplace. Competitiveness became the by-word.

In those worrisome times, NSF harkened back to the wisdom of Vannevar Bush in his seminal piece, Science: The Endless Frontier. It had been roughly thirty years since Bush had written that treatise for then-President F.D.R. Many remembered the work as insightful and important, but few remembered why.

To paraphrase Vannevar Bush on science -- he directed us to see science effective in the national welfare only as a member of a team. With recognition of that wisdom, NSF set out to develop a program that would build a team model. This model would be a place where university science and engineering and industry could be long-term and powerful partners to achieve innovation and marketplace success.

By its very design, the I/UCRC model would begin to diffuse the historic reticence between government and industry. This would take place by seeding effective teams where government would facilitate a vibrant relationship between university researchers and industry. The mandate of this partnership was to address the need of industry to confront growing international economic competition.

Among the fundamental values that NSF brought to the I/UCRC structure was the responsibility for each party to participate as both a teacher and a learner. This was not to be a one-way street where one party gave and the other received. There would be both opportunity and responsibility to teach as well as learn.

In addition, NSF, especially Alex, understood the value of having all team members participate from the onset of a project when each could have a voice at the front end in deciding the parameters and responsibilities of the work to be done.

Another important value instilled in the process was the understanding that teams and centers should eventually be able to stand on their own, independent of NSF support. This, as you all know, has happened in most cases.

In the big picture, the framers of the program understood the long-term value of centers serving as a training-ground for graduate and undergraduate students. And as university researchers and industry personnel worked side-by-side, industry began to see these arrangements as fertile territory for recruiting fresh, well-trained talent for their own ranks.

The framework for the I/UCRC program was a frontier-approach to NSF's mission of advancing science and engineering for the public good while continuing to train the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Hindsight allows us to better see the larger vision that this program introduced -- the template of integration and collaboration for future NSF program-design. This would henceforth influence the Foundation's perspective, approach and planning in new and more productive ways.

NSF successfully replicated integration and collaboration in its many forms into the diverse centers that followed. Those centers have helped the nation move into competitively into today's fast-paced Knowledge Economy. Consider for a moment the partial list of categories for major NSF centers --science and technology centers, engineering research centers, supercomputing centers, partnerships for innovation and now the science of learning centers.

The components of the formula are simple and allow for maximum flexibility. You know the ingredients and outcomes better than any. NSF provides seed money which is leveraged more than 10 times through industry and other sources of center support. When NSF support is used in this way it automatically brings in new ideas and expertise. Thus the seed money provides a meeting ground where many interested parties can gather.

There was a time, in the 60s and early 70s, when the norm was 20 years for the results of fundamental research to find their way to the marketplace. Today, in many instances, that timeframe has collapsed, often to 20 months. The pace of technological change has accelerated dramatically with the advent of more powerful and sophisticated tools both enabling more creative disruption at the frontier at the frontier of knowledge and reducing time lag between discovery and application.

However, another major underlying cause for this change has been the links made between and among the principal players. The barriers between sectors have diminished, due in large part to changes in the sociology of science and engineering brought about by integration and collaboration. With university researchers working with those in industry on a common problem, the time from lab to marketplace shortens.

In addition, a new collegiality grows and two very different sectors grow to appreciate each other's culture and find a way to braid them into a pattern of success. Thus trust emerges as the ultimate enabler of the partnership.

NSF's history of success attests to an understanding of the larger context in the nation and abroad to define goals and strategies for the future. Our current strategic plan is rooted in four primary categories, people, tools, ideas, and organizational excellence.

These broad categories are brought to fruition by the continuing development of intellectual capital, the integration of research and education, and the continuing search to form partnerships to make optimum use of the nation's resources.

I am sure that you recognize how your evolving work with the I/UCRC program has helped shape and enhance these territories, and how they have, in turn, honed and advanced you own work.

Our vision for the future of NSF is to remain steadfast about a focus at the frontier. We are a reconnaissance institution, checking out the future. With the cognizance of accelerating change, we are committed to preparing a science and engineering workforce that will reflect our changing demographics, and adapt to a future that may well be distinctly different in ways we cannot even imagine.

In closing, I want you to pay tribute to all of you. An institution is only as good as its people. You and others like you continue to make NSF a premier institution - respected around the world, and held in high esteem by those whose task it is to judge us. Thank you for the important contributions you have made to that legacy.

Happy Anniversary I/UCRC! Thank you, Alex.

Return to a list of Dr. Bordogna's speeches.


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